The elections on 5 March 1933 came in the wake of months of political intrigue and negotiation. In December 1932 President von Hindenburg had sacked Chancellor von Papen, replacing him with the defence minister, Kurt von Schleicher, who was determined to form a coalition. The aggrieved von Papen then opened negotiations with Adolf Hitler, proposing a Nationalist-Nazi coalition, and indicating to von Hindenburg that such an alliance would temper the Nazis’ more thuggish tendencies. Hitler became chancellor on 30 January 1933. When the Reichstag was set on fire on 27 February, allegedly by a Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe, support for the Communist Party (KPD) saw a marked decline. Despite the violence, threats and intimidation meted out by the brownshirts and SS, however, the Nazis polled only 43.9 per cent of the vote at the elections held in a febrile atmosphere just six days later, well short of a governing majority, and were forced to form a coalition with the DNVP (German National People’s Party). The Communists polled 12.3 per cent and the SPD won 20.4 per cent. But this was destined to be the last contested election before the outbreak of World War II. Just two weeks later Hitler passed the Enabling Act, supported by all the non-Socialist parties, which effectively gave him dictatorial powers, and within two months all the other political parties had been banned.
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